John Wesley (June 28 [O.S. June 17] 1703 – March 2, 1791) was an eighteenth-century Anglican minister and Christian theologian who was an early leader in the Methodist movement. Methodism had three rises: the first at Oxford University with the founding of the so-called “Holy Club”; the second while Wesley was parish priest in Savannah, Georgia; and the third in London after Wesley’s return to England. The movement took form from its third rise in the early 1740s with Wesley, along with others, itinerant field preaching and the subsequent founding of religious societies for the formation of believers. This was the first widely successful evangelical movement in the United Kingdom. Wesley’s Methodist connection included societies throughout England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland before spreading to other parts of the English-speaking world and beyond. He divided his religious societies further into classes and bands for intensive accountability and religious instruction.
Methodists, under Wesley’s direction, became leaders in many social justice issues of the day including prison reform and abolitionism movements. Wesley’s strength as a theologian lay in his ability to combine seemingly opposing theological stances. His greatest theological achievement was his promotion of what he termed “Christian perfection,” or holiness of heart and life. Wesley insisted that in this life, the Christian could come to a state where the love of God, or perfect love, reigned supreme in one’s heart. His evangelical theology, especially his understanding of Christian perfection, was firmly grounded in his sacramental theology. He continually insisted on the general use of the means of grace (prayer, Scripture, meditation, Holy Communion, etc.) as the means by which God transformed the believer. Throughout his life, Wesley remained within the Church of England and insisted that his movement was well within the bounds of the Anglican Church. His maverick use of church policy put him at odds with many within the Church of England, though toward the end of his life he was widely respected.
If doing a good act in public will excite others to do more good, then…”Let your light shine to all…”miss no opportunity to do good.
I sought to establish my own righteousness. In this vile abject state of bondage to sin, I was indeed fighting continually, but not conquering. Before, I had willingly served sin; now it was unwillingly; but still I served it. I fell and rose, and fell again. Sometimes I was overcome, and in heaviness; sometimes I overcame, and was in joy. For as in the former state I had some foretastes of the terrors of the law, so had I in this of the comforts of the gospel. During
This whole struggle between nature and grace, which had now continued about ten years, I had many remarkable returns to prayer, especially when I was in troubles; I had many sensible comforts, which are indeed no other than short anticipations of the life of faith. But I was still ‘under the law’ not ‘under grace’…I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.
Though I am always in haste, I am never in a hurry because I never undertake more work than I can go through with calmness of spirit.